The February 1963 to January 1964 eruption of Gunung Agung, Indonesia’s largest and most devastating eruption of the twentieth century, was a multi-phase explosive and effusive event that produced both basaltic andesite tephra and andesite lava. A rather unusual eruption sequence with an early lava flow followed by two explosive phases. (Research Gate)
Imagine living in a jungle on the slopes of a massive mountain. Your village is composed of several small huts nestled within densely vegetated terrain. Life flows in the tempo of your mountain culture, and is different from that of the people who live far below you, along the shores of a sapphire blue sea, which surrounds your lush green island.
One day the earth explodes and your home becomes a death temple. For a year, each day is filled with the ear shattering roar of a volcano, and convulsive, violent, earth, and atmospheric upheaval. You have no car or easy transport, just feet. Weathering the storm for a year, eventually the battle between earth and sky settles, and quiet returns. The island thinks you and your village are dead. “How could anyone have survived that?”
Government finds and relocates some survivors, but not you and yours. They do not know about your village.
Times on the mountain though better than during the eruption, are now hard. Your village is sick all of the time. People come and go, being born and dying in short order.
Years later a funny man, tall and white, shows up on the mountain. He leaves. But then comes back. And he keeps coming, bringing others. Roads are built, new ways of farming introduced. Schools and many other things, he starts. And life slowly begins to look better when people are born on the mountain.
I first met David Booth, founder of East Bali Poverty Project through my girlfriend at the time, Donna Von Hoesslin’s efforts. Donna was working with the Balinese in creating the product line for her young company, Betty Belts. She was compelled to do something via her growing organization, to give back to Bali.
We had been put in touch with Linda Garland, a British Expat whose innovative design work work on Bali, and her history within the music business, had made her famous, well loved, and connected on this beautiful developing island. She told us about David Booth saying (paraphrased): “If you want to help Bali, talk to David about his project.”
We did, and were impressed to help. The plan was to tell people about EBPP and the work, and invite them to donate and in process join in on what I describe as a “sustainability mission” for Bali.
In short order, Donna had proposed to Yvonne Chouinard’s environmental NGO, 1 Percent for the Planet, that EBPP be considered, because in spite of it being largely Humanitarian in nature, the core concepts would create a better, cleaner, more sustainable Bali. 1% agreed, certified the NGO and a percentage of Betty Belts income began to go to the NGO. It was a big shift for 1 Percent for the Planet.
In recent years BB has taken to doing Cause Day sales where 20% of all proceeds go directly to specific vetted causes, like EBPP. What this does, is raise awareness and connect people via their purchases to a solution and Cause that they can feel good about, knowing each dollar does a lot to help a people, a Nation and a Biome. It is a threefer, at the minimum.
We had not been up on the mountain to see what was going on since 2009, and David Booth kindly fit us into his insanely busy schedule. Our friend and long time driver Gusti Made Merta, scooped us up at dawn this week, and we met up with David and his assistant Kommange, and caravanned up mountain from our coastal lodging at Villa L Orange, to the remote office headquarters for EBPP.
As Donna, my son Josh who had flown in to be with us, and I sat at table over Bali coffee, David explained the nuances and shifts which had gone on in the organization since we had last been up. About 20 minutes in and as we were getting ready to head up mountain, a young woman arrived.
David went outside to speak with her and being the proverbial fly on the wall that I am, and always having a camera in hand, I saw her throw her arms around him and say thank you. I watched as David obviously teared up, and inconspicuously shot a couple frames.
As we headed out to the 4×4 we would take up the mountain, David turned to me and said in his unmistakably indelible British accent: “Well that was a bit emotional. She came up to tell me that she was just accepted into the University. She is the first one from the program.”
I wrote this piece which explains in greater detail why EBPP is so unique, in 2009. the blog link is here if you would like to know more. We went there with some of the women who are the driving force behind the company.
The two 4×4’s set out up mountain, and on mostly single track trails, we bounced and jostled our way up towards the clouds. I could not help but notice the big black upholstered chair riding conspicuously, strapped down in the back of the white truck in front of us. At our first stop, about an hour into the ascent we hopped out and I asked about it.
“Is that a gynecological exam table?” David looked at me and said “Yes, it is pap smear day. We take the examination to them, and have a really great female doctor who gets on well with the women.”
The things we take for granted, like access to preventative medical care, are just a narrow slice of the EBPP mission.
And back onto the single track we went, leaving the white truck w exam table behind. An hour later we spotted a few roof tops on a ridge line, and our driver told us that this was the first school we would visit that day. He told us that the land had been hand cleared and excavated, as no earth moving equipment could ever make it up there.
Of course the logistics of the place, being high up on the mountain, complicate everything. Think about pouring a foundation, how that would work. Then there is the hauling in of brick and tiles for walls and roofing. One can understand why these villages still utilize organic building materials. They wear and you replace old decaying with new. But this was a school, a symbol, as well as being a utilitarian structure.
Classes were in session and the teachers invited us in. Artist Rick Russel of Balingup West Aust was at the schools this week, giving Art and painting technique instruction.
Donna was invited into each class where she introduced herself as the designer and head of her company and supporter-donor of EBPP, and we all spent time with the children, as they showed us what they were learning and doing at the school. It was a lot of fun and the level of skill, organizational discipline, social grace displayed by these children, who time had sort of forgotten, was amazing. We easily recognized the cognitive changes that had taken place in them since our last visit in 2009. It was really beautiful!
All too soon we were done, and on to the next school, which was smaller, with fewer students. One thing that I should mention is that most of these kids trek to school, some over a handful of kilometers each day, across mountainous jungle terrain. They are neat, composed, orderly and disciplined. Gives new insight into the old Grandparents saw about walking through the snow storms in winter to go to school in the “old days” in the US. I was impressed in ways I won’t express here. But it mattered a lot to me, what I saw. I could see manifold benefit, and each one was living, breathing and smiling in front of me.
Another hour of uphill jostle in the 4×4 and we were at the second school we were to visit that day. Both Josh and Donna went in to speak to the lone class in session. The kids were in the 13-15 year age range and were studying empowerment for international environments. Heady on point stuff.
Donna spoke on her life’s work and travel history, and took the kids on a trip using the world map, telling them of her history, and even taught them a couple words of German, to accompany the story of her life in Europe. The two words being: “peace” and “love”. Got to hand it to my wife. She knows how to plant seeds.
Soon it was time to head down the mountain, and as the kids waved goodbye, one of the teachers laughed and shouted: “Enjoy your roller coaster ride back down!” We all laughed, and it really was like that, as we picked our way back down to the main mountain HQ for EBPP and met up with David Booth and Rick Russel once more.
So that is another little slice of the things we get to do on Bali, and a look at the work we love so much.
Here is the link to East Bali Poverty Project if you would like to learn more or donate directly.
Here is the link to Betty Belts website. Get on the mailing list for projects and updates and Cause Day events and all of the other very cool things Donna has her company doing.
None of us really enjoys talking about the charitable work too much, because it is always at risk of ginning up the appearance of using the charity to “benefit brand” or “green wash”. None of what we do is even close to being that.
What each of us does in this life will have an affect. The sum total of our lives will only live on in the people we invest in, because they are a continual living resource that carries compassion, love, education and understanding: forward.
I select what I join myself to with a high degree of study, informational input and caution, since time and resources are so precious. I am so glad to have been able to get to see some of the fruit of that series of choices help a little bit. I hope that you might consider doing so as well.
It is a lot of fun, and matters a lot.
My son Josh and I will be cutting together a little video of this jaunt when I return to the office in California. But until then here is a gallery of images. A short cull from our day on the volcano. Click on any of the images to view them larger. Thanks for tagging along!
Aloha nui loa.